Uniform Circular Motion PP

UCM & Gravity – Uniform Circular
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Objectives and Learning Targets
1. Explain the acceleration of an object moving in a circle at constant speed.
2. Define centripetal force and recognize that it is not a special kind of force, but
that it is provided by forces such as tension, gravity, and friction.
3. Solve problems involving calculations of centripetal force.
4. Determine the direction of a centripetal force and centripetal acceleration for an
object moving in a circular path.
5. Calculate the period, frequency, speed and distance traveled for objects moving in
circles at constant speed.
6. Analyze and solve problems involving objects moving in vertical circles.
7. Determine the acceleration due to gravity near the surface of Earth.
8. Utilize Newton’s Law of Universal Gravitation to determine the gravitational force
of attraction between two objects.
9. Explain the difference between mass and weight.
10. Explain weightlessness for objects in orbit.
11. Explain how Kepler’s Laws describe the orbits of planetary objects around the
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Acceleration
• The motion of an object in a circular path at constant speed is known as
uniform circular motion (UCM). An object in UCM is constantly changing
direction, and since velocity is a vector and has direction, you could say that
an object undergoing UCM has a constantly changing velocity, even if its
speed remains constant. And if the velocity of an object is changing, it must
be accelerating. Therefore, an object undergoing UCM is constantly
accelerating. This type of acceleration is known as centripetal acceleration.
• Question: If a car is accelerating, is its speed increasing?
• Answer: It depends. Its speed could be increasing, or it could be
accelerating in a direction opposite its velocity (slowing down). Or, its speed
could remain constant yet still be accelerating if it is traveling in uniform
circular motion.
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Acceleration
• Just as importantly, we need to figure out the direction of the object's acceleration,
since acceleration is a vector. To do this, let's draw an object moving counter-clockwise
in a circular path, and show its velocity vector at two different points in time. Since we
know acceleration is the rate of change of an object's velocity with respect to time, we
can determine the direction of the object's acceleration by finding the direction of its
change in velocity, Δv.
• To find its change in velocity, Δv, we must recall that .
• Therefore, we need to find the difference of the vectors vf and vi
graphically, which can be re-written as .
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Acceleration
• Recall that to add vectors graphically, we line them up, tip-to-tail, and then draw our
resultant vector from the starting point (tail) of our first vector to the ending point (tip)
of our last vector.
• So, the acceleration vector must point in the direction shown above. If I show this
vector back on our original circle, lined up directly between our initial and final
velocity vector, it's easy to see that the acceleration vector points toward the center
of the circle.
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Acceleration
• You can repeat this procedure from any point on the circle... no matter where
you go, the acceleration vector always points toward the center of the circle.
In fact, the word centripetal in centripetal acceleration means "centerseeking!”
• So now we know the direction of an object's acceleration (toward the center
of the circle), but what about its magnitude? Magnitude of an object's
centripetal acceleration can be found on the reference table, and is given by
the formula:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Circular Speed
• So how do you find the speed of an object as it travels in a circular path? The formula
for speed that we learned in kinematics still applies.
• We have to be careful in using this equation, however, to understand that an object
traveling in a circular path is traveling along the circumference of a circle. Therefore,
if an object were to make one complete revolution around the circle, the distance it
travels is equal to the circle's circumference.
Let's take a look at a sample problem:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Sample Problem #1
Centripetal Acceleration
• Question: Miranda drives her car clockwise around a circular track of radius
30m. She completes 10 laps around the track in 2 minutes. Find Miranda's
total distance traveled, average speed, and centripetal acceleration.
• Answer:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Force
• If an object traveling in a circular path has an inward acceleration, Newton's
2nd Law tells us there must be a net force directed toward the center of the
circle as well. This type of force, known as a centripetal force, can be a
gravitational force, a tension, an applied force, or even a frictional force.
• NOTE: When dealing with circular motion problems, it is important to realize
that a centripetal force isn't really a new force, a centripetal force is just a
label or grouping we apply to a force to indicate its direction is toward the
center of a circle. This means that you never want to label a force on a free
body diagram as a centripetal force, Fc. Instead, label the center-directed
force as specifically as you can. If a tension is causing the force, label the force
FT. If a frictional force is causing the center-directed force, label it Ff, and so
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Force
• We can combine the equation for centripetal acceleration with Newton's 2nd Law to
obtain Newton's 2nd Law for Circular Motion. Recall that Newton's 2nd Law states:
• For an object traveling in a circular path, there must be a net (centripetal) force
directed toward the center of the circular path to cause a (centripetal) acceleration
directed toward the center of the circular path. We can revise Newton's 2nd Law for
this particular case, then, as follows:
• Then, recalling our formula for centripetal acceleration as:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Centripetal Force
• We can put these together, replacing ac in our equation to get a combined form
of Newton's 2nd Law for Uniform Circular Motion:
• Of course, if an object is traveling in a circular path and the centripetal force is
removed, the object will continue traveling in a straight line in whatever
direction it was moving at the instant the force was removed.
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Sample Problem #2
Centripetal Force
• Question: An 800N running back turns a corner in a circular path of r=1m at a
velocity of 8 m/s. Find the running back's mass, centripetal acceleration, and
centripetal force.
• Answer: Given mg = 800N, r = 1m, v = 8m/s; Find m, ac, Fc
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Sample Problem #3
Centripetal Force
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Sample Problem #3
Centripetal Force
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Frequency and Period
• For objects moving in circular paths, we can characterize their motion around
the circle using the terms frequency (f) and period (T). The frequency of an
object is the number of revolutions the object makes in a complete second.
It is measured in units of [1/s], or Hertz (Hz). In similar fashion, the period of
an object is the time it takes to make one complete revolution. Since the
period is a time interval, it is measured in units of seconds. We can relate
period and frequency using the equations:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Sample Problem #4
Frequency and Period
• Question: A 500g toy train completes 10 laps of its circular track in 1 min 40s.
If the diameter of the track is 1m, find the train's centripetal acceleration (ac),
centripetal force (Fc), period (T), and frequency (f).
• Answer:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Sample Problem #5
Centripetal Motion
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Circular Motion
• Objects travel in circles vertically as well as horizontally. Because the speed of these
objects isn't typically constant, technically this isn't uniform circular motion, but our
UCM analysis skills still prove applicable.
• Consider a roller coaster traveling in a vertical loop of radius 10m. You travel through
the loop upside down, yet you don't fall out of the roller coaster. How is this possible?
We can use our understanding of UCM and dynamics to find out!
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Circular Motion – Bottom of Circle
• To begin with, let's first take a look at the coaster when the car is at the bottom of the
loop. Drawing a free body diagram, the force of gravity on the coaster, also known as
its weight, pulls it down, so we draw a vector pointing down labeled "mg." Opposing
that force is the normal force of the rails of the coaster pushing up, which we label FN.
• Because the coaster is moving in a circular path, we can analyze it using the tools we
developed for uniform circular motion. Newton's 2nd Law still applies, so we can write:
• Notice that because we're talking about circular motion, we'll adopt the convention
that forces pointing toward the center of the circle are positive, and forces pointing
away from the center of the circle are negative. At this point, recall that the force you
"feel" when you're in motion is actually the normal force. So, solving for the normal
force as you begin to move in a circle, we find that
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Circular Motion – Bottom of Circle
• Since we know that the net force is always equal to mass times acceleration, so the net
centripetal force is equal to mass times the centripetal acceleration, we can replace
FNETc as follows:
• We can see from the resulting equation that the normal force is now equal to the
weight plus an additional term from the centripetal force of the circular motion. As we
travel in a circular path near the bottom of the loop, then, we feel heavier than our
weight. In common terms, we feel additional "g-forces." How many g's we feel can be
obtained with a little bit more manipulation. If we re-write our equation for the normal
force, pulling out the mass by applying the distributive property of multiplication, we
• Notice that inside the parenthesis we have our standard acceleration due to gravity, g,
plus a term from the centripetal acceleration:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Circular Motion – Bottom of Circle
• This additional term is the additional g-force felt by a person. For example, if
ac was equal to g (9.81 m/s2), you could say the person in the cart was
experiencing two g's (1g from the centripetal acceleration, and 1g from the
Earth's gravitational field). If ac were equal to 3*g (29.4 m/s2), the person
would be experiencing a total of four g's.
• Expanding this analysis to a similar situation in a different context, try to
imagine instead of a roller coaster, a mass whirling in a vertical circle by a
string. You could replace the normal force by the tension in the string in our
analysis. Because the force is larger at the bottom of the circle, the likelihood
of the string breaking is highest when the mass is at the bottom of the
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Circular Motion – Top of Circle
• At the top of the loop, we have a considerably different
picture. Now, the normal force from the coaster rails
must be pushing down against the cart, though still in
the positive direction since down is now toward the
center of the circular path. In this case, however, the
weight of the object also points toward the center of the
circle, since the Earth's gravitational field always pulls
toward the center of the Earth. Our free body diagram
looks considerably different, and therefore our
application to Newton's 2nd Law for Circular Motion is
considerably different as well.
• Since the force you feel is actually the normal force, we can solve for the normal force
and expand the net centripetal force as shown:
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Circular Motion – Top of Circle
• You can see from the equation that the normal force is now the centripetal force minus
your weight. If the centripetal force were equal to your weight, you would feel as
though you were weightless. Note that this is also the point where the normal force is
exactly equal to 0. This means the rails of the track are no longer pushing on the roller
coaster cart... if the centripetal force were even the tiniest bit less (the car's speed was
the tiniest bit less), the normal force FN would be less than 0. Since the rails can't
physically pull the cart in the negative direction (away from the center of the circle),
this means the car is falling off the rail and the cart's occupant is about to have a very,
very bad day. Only by maintaining a high speed can the cart successfully negotiate the
loop... go too slow and the cart falls.
• In order to remain safe, real roller coasters actually have wheels on both sides of the
rails to prevent the cart from falling if it ever did slow down at the top of a loop,
although coasters are designed so that this situation never actually occurs.
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity
Vertical Loop Rollercoasters
Why aren’t the loops perfect circles?
Would the tangential velocity by constant if
they were?
Unit #5 UCM & Gravity

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